[Q&A] Leah Capelle Is Vulnerable as Ever in ‘triptych’

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Breeden (@macksfilms)

By Alissa Arunarsirakul // April 9, 2020

After doing some major self-reflection, Leah Capelle finally began to focus on her mental health and channeled all of her energy into her all-telling new album, triptych. With every emotional track written about the human heart and condition, triptych has Capelle being even more vulnerable than we thought was possible. If you’ve never heard of Leah Capelle before, triptych is your opportunity to familiarize yourself with this alternative pop artist. 

On triptych, Leah Capelle explained,

“The songs come from my depressive episodes, drug-induced evenings, broken-heart breakdowns, first dating experiences as an openly bisexual woman, and eventually, beautiful moments of acceptance and healing. ‘triptych,’ to me, is not just a breakup album. It’s the story of how I had to lose myself – to lose everything I held close – to find myself again.”

To celebrate the release of her new music, we recently chatted with Leah Capelle about mental health, mistakes, and of course, triptych.

HH: You’ve often been compared to greats like Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple, but which musicians inspire you as an artist?

LC: I’m inspired by music daily, spanning from the greats to the new up-and-comers like myself, and everywhere in between. My main influences include Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Big Red Machine, Volcano Choir), St. Vincent, Noah Gundersen, The Japanese House, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, MUNA, Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, and many others!

HH: Your musical vibrancy is so infectious and intoxicating. How did you develop this innovative sound?

LC: Thank you! The journey toward finding my sound has been a long and winding one. I used to get down on myself for how diverse my music was within my catalogue, but now find peace in knowing that I can be whatever kind of artist feels the most authentic at any given time, no matter how many different styles I piece together on a song. My record triptych was an experiment in genre blending; there are very eccentric alternative parts, hard rock guitars, indie folk vocals, electro pop synths and drum beats, and even a few R&B/hip hop elements thrown in. It was so much fun to play around! This record is really my first big step in finding my voice as an artist, and despite all the variety on the record, it feels like one fluid piece of art.

HH: Your new album, triptych, is a deep dive into your life as you’ve gone through depression, isolation, and loss. What was it like for you to fully dedicate yourself to creating music and distancing yourself from your friends and family?

LC: To be honest, the original isolation that was the catalyst for this record was not a healthy one… I was really struggling with mental health, heartbreak, substance abuse, and so on. So during that time, I shut down, for lack of a better term. I stopped playing shows, more or less, and spent all day either burnt out from work or school, listening to music, writing music, or feeling a severe lack of motivation to get out of bed. However, what came out of that time was an intense drive to make the best damn record I possibly could. It took a little over a year, and a hell of a lot of work, but I’m so proud of it. I’m in a much healthier place now and am feeling so sure that this is the path I’m meant to be on–so the hard times were ultimately worth it.

HH: “on accident” has us reflecting on the mistakes we’ve made over the years. What’s something that you once considered a mistake, but later came to terms with and learned that it was actually for the better?

LC: I used to feel a lot of insecurity about the fact that I dropped out of Berklee College of Music after one year. I look back on my time there with such fondness, that for a long time, I regretted not staying for at least one more year. I could have spent more time with my friends in Boston, learned so much more about theory, made even more industry connections, developed even deeper as an artist… But by my third year here in LA, I realized it was absolutely the right decision. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken the plunge and moved to the other side of the country at 19. I’d be a completely different person.

HH: You’ve shared that “triptych” began as a poem on a sleepless night. At what point did you realize this is a song you wanted on your album?

LC: “triptych” did indeed begin as a poem, and it remained that way for nearly four months. It was just a little note in my phone, and I was unsure if it would ever be more than that. But I knew the imagery was strong. I knew the prose could be impactful. I thought for a while that I would maybe just use the poem as the inspiration for the rest of the record, and print it on the “back-side” of the album without ever turning it into music. But one day, I woke up with this melody floating around in my half-conscious mind, and immediately grabbed a guitar. From that point forward, I knew it would be the beginning of the record – the beginning of the story, and all of a sudden it became the clear title track.

I’ve been sleeping with your keys, they help me not to dream
Pressed against my palms, and digging in between
My fingertips are searching for you underneath the sheets
But you left me, you loved me, and you lost me.

Can’t look at myself in mirrors, ’cause I won’t like what I’ll see
Can’t stand to hear my voice as it spills out from my teeth
I just picture us a triptych – a three part symphony –
as you loved me, you lost me, and you left me.

You’ll try to be a stranger, a stoic shadow man
And I’ll be catatonic with my third drink in my hand
And as you sense me spiraling, please remember that:
You lost me, you left me, but you loved me.

HH: Although every track on this record is filled with pure emotions, was there a particular song that was more difficult to write than others?

LC: Honestly, the hardest song on this record to write was “i keep her.” Not due to any sort of extreme emotional reaction, but because I kept feeling like the song wasn’t good enough. The rest of the record came into focus fairly quickly – most songs written in a day and barely touched since then. But I was hacking away at “i keep her” all the way up to the day we tracked vocals. I almost scrapped it entirely from the album a couple times, fearing it was the ‘weakest link’ in the whole bunch. In a wild turn of events though, the changes I made at the last second completely changed the song – and we decided to release it as the fourth and final single. 

HH: If you could sell out a headline show anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

LC: Oh my goodness, how could I choose just one?! Selling out Madison Square Garden is a dream I share with many artists, because it’s such a legendary venue. Also The Forum in Los Angeles! More realistically though, I’d love to be able to sell out a series of mid-sized venues like The Wiltern (LA), Beacon Theatre (NYC), or the O2 Forum in London at some point in the near-ish future.

HH: What are your three hidden hits? 

LC: Beck Pete – “Me, Denial and Space” – an unbelievably vulnerable and heart-wrenching song about the loss of her father.

Charli Adams – “Passenger Seat” – my favorite song off Charli’s newest EP, Good at Being Young. This line, “I tried really hard not to miss you, but it’s not looking good for me,” gets me every time.

push baby – “i think i love you (but i don’t like you)” – This whole EP whoa is entirely underrated in my opinion, but this song was the soundtrack to my Spain trip last fall and brings me SUCH happiness whenever it comes on!

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